south North America

Walking into the men’s restroom in Tecate, Mexico, I am greeted by four Mexican men counting out a duffel bag of American cash. “Esta cerrado,” explains one of them. My broken Spanish told me the bathroom was closed so I excuse myself and go back to the motorcycle where I study the map to figure out the last place I wasn’t lost.

I wasn’t lost in Ensenada, where I purchased gas. A gas attendant said Mexico 3 was a few miles north of Ensenada but that highway curved north and east. So I took Mexico 3, which began curving east but soon carved north-northeast whereas I needed to go south and east via Mexico 3 in the middle of Ensenada. I should have clarified where I was going not, which way to Highway Tres nonsense.

Cutting through mountain passes I find a semi truck hauling chickens swerving in both lanes passing cars on hills and leaving only chicken feathers trailing in the semi’s wake to prove they were here. I pass the chicken semi along a long straight and follow the road by myself. Passing arid vineyards I arrive at a military checkpoint.

Young men in baggy uniforms hold assault riffles pointed at no one specific. ‘Jesus, being stuck out in this desert day-in and out, these is Mexico Military crème de la bottom,’ I think to myself. The line is a dozen-cars long as we wait for the military to inspect semi trucks, pickup trucks, 1970s Honda Civics and I wait to get through. When it’s my turn to speak with the child solider in charge I cobble together something resembling “I only have what’s in the backpack,” which is opened up and I am waved through. I could have asked direction but didn’t.

There are no towns alongside the road just patches of feral dogs, crosses marking the scene of an accident and collections of tiendas peddling trinkets to locals but no need to stop even though I was hungry; having not ate since San Diego this morning. After which, I purchased Pesos on the boarder at a bad exchange rate, bought water and now I’m here when I was planning to be somewhere else by this time. Hell something, eating a fish taco, dangling my feet in the Sea of Cortez sipping a discount beer was what I was thinking. But then again I wasn’t looking at the direction of the cacti shadows to confirm the direction I was heading was the direction I wanted to go.

So when gas was running low and I arrived at a junction I thought I’d stop, acclimate myself and use the restroom. Walking into the men’s restroom in Tecate, Mexico, I am greeted by four Mexican men counting out a duffel bag of American cash when one of them explains the restroom is out of order and I had just spend five hours and two hundred miles driving a loop in the desert.

There will be no way to make San Felipe before dark and I am not riding on unfamiliar roads in a strange country at night when the roads are hazardous enough during the day. So I buy a soda, drinking it slowly in the sun before swallowing the last of the soda I and my pride and riding north of Mexico. I ride along the US/Mexico boarder noticing how formidable the fence appears at the all the obvious places. Past a hollow building in west Tecate there is a line of traffic snaking east for a mile, so I filter past parked cars and ride to the front of the line. Justifying why I was there and what I did while in Mexico, I was allowed back into America and didn’t look back.

Passing another boarder check post a few miles up I begin the long ride back to Los Angeles, having spent the day doing an international loop. Getting close to San Diego again I decline spending tonight in a hostel after having paid for and not stayed at the same hostel the night before in the same city when I was planning a micro-holiday in south North America. Besides I didn’t want to call my friends and San Diego after having left this morning that I got lost at the first turn and did nothing but exchange money, pay road tolls and speak with the military all day. The only option left was the long ride home, 150 more miles on the odometer and I’d be home for Halloween without a costume or a party to attend. There were worse way to spend the night, including explaining why I’m wondering on a motorcycle to a dehydrated child solider with an assault riffle in the middle of the Senora Desert at 9PM or stumbling across a drug deal and having to ask involved parties where the nearest restroom is located.